Opinion: Football looks on, as hockey branding blooms

The timing of the WSH has seen it get brands like Vodafone, Bridgestone and Imperial Blue as sponsors

Mar 14, 2012 05:18:00 AM | Article | Raahil Chopra

While promoting Euro 2012 in India with Carlsberg, Bhaichung Bhutia suggested that the Premier League Soccer tournament may not take place at all, and hinted at a re-worked tournament that will be formed sometime next year, which will be backed by the All India Football Federation  (AIFF) and not just a state board (the IFA is the governing body of the game in West Bengal that is partnering CMG to launch PLS).

This could be a good thing. Rather start a foolproof football tournament a year late than start a football tournament which doesn’t have the backing of the entire football fraternity and one that’s timed so incorrectly. The delay has already seen one ‘icon’ player backing out of the tournament as Robbie Fowler pulled out of the league.

The temperature won’t be kind on the foreign recruits either as the tournament will be played during the peak summer.

The IPL starts on 4 April and goes on until 27 May.

If this tournament starts between 4-9 April, the tournament will coincide with the IPL. The IPL is the big tournament for brands in India and plenty (as many as 20 for the Kolkata Knight Riders team alone) of them use their marketing budgets during the two months of cricket. 

Football has grown in India over the past few years and West Bengal is a football loving state. But the state also loves its cricket. The presence of Shah Rukh Khan’s eleven at the Eden Gardens will lure at least 50,000 fans to the stadium each time, which could make a difference to the turnout of the Premier League Soccer games in the state.

For the rest of the nation, which will hope to catch the tournament on television, will have to pick between the IPL and the PLS. The IPL generally has two games a day. One starts at 4pm and the second at 8pm. This also means marketers will have to pick between the two sports.

Even though football has gained significance in the country over the past few years, TV ratings of the sport are way behind cricket.

According to TAM ratings received from ESPN STAR Sports, the recent Premier League game between Manchester United and Liverpool got a rating of 0.14 in India and a rating of 0.31 in the five metros. The game between Chelsea and Manchester United (arguably the two most followed clubs in India) on 5 February got a rating of 0.49 in the five metros as compared to a rating of 0.23 nationwide. Compare these numbers to the India-Australia ODI on 12 February. The game saw a nationwide rating of 4.55 and a rating of 6.05 in the five metros.

The games did not overlap. The Premier League started in the evening after the India-Australia game got over. If the PHS and the IPL are played at the same time the ratings will be affected further. We need to follow the system in England. The bulk of the T20 tournament in England is completed during the Barclays Premier League’s off-season. The semi-finals and the finals are played on one Saturday in August, which means there’s an overlap of only one day for the two big domestic tournaments. This allows fans, marketers and broadcasters to watch/advertise/broadcast both the sports instead of having to pick between the two.

This is where World Series Hockey has done well. It started on 29 February and will end on 2 April, two days before the start of the IPL. The timing of the tournament has seen it get brands like Vodafone (key sponsor during the IPL), Bridgestone (sponsor of the Mumbai Indians) and Imperial Blue (Seagram’s always associates with cricket). Would these brands associate with the WSH if it would coincide with the IPL?